With a deep breath, Katie stilled herself.
Nearly an hour had passed since she left Caleb near the front gates of Caldreth, and she was standing in front of the door of an unmarked tavern.
While the fact that the tavern did not have a sign or a name would have made some people suspicious, that was not the case with the tavern before her. It was only accessible through a back alley that was just about as far from Castle Caldreth as one could get while still being inside the city.
Placing her hand on the door handle, she slowly turned it and pushed the door open.
As the door opened, she suddenly became aware that every table inside the tavern was occupied, along with all of the seats at the bar. The fact that twenty sets of eyes were upon her was more worrying than anything, but she pushed her anxiety to the side and walked through the door.
She quickly walked along a straight path that would have taken her between the bar and the collections of tables, but she only managed to get halfway past the bar when a man turned on his stool and placed a burly hand on her shoulder.
“Where’re you going so fast, sweetie?” the man asked, his words slurring together enough that she had to focus to understand them.
Katie’s eyes suddenly turned to him, their edge far greater than what could normally be seen. With a sweeping wave of her arm, she knocked his hand from her shoulder and proceeded to spin on her heel. Before he could react, her hand was on the back of his head, gripping his hair forcefully.
The sound of wood cracking resounded as she slammed the man’s face into the far with every ounce of her strength.
The intoxicated man slipped from his stool as he fell into a state of unconsciousness with a bloody face.
Other than the sudden sound of the man hitting the ground, the tavern grew quiet with Katie’s actions. The tension in the room was great, despite the fact that no one appeared to have any intention of rising from their seats.
The silence was only broken as the sound of clapping rang through the tavern.
Katie’s eyes darted towards the direction that she had been walking towards originally. A man in his mid-thirties, dressed in fine clothes of a dark shade was making his way towards her. His hands came together three times, clapping with a look of amusement upon his face.
“I wondered if you had actually returned after all this time. It appears that you have indeed,” the man said as he stopped a dozen feet away. “I suppose you’ve been gone away for too long if someone’s actually willing to try to lay a hand on you. I seem to recall that the last person who did it lost his hand.”
“Nicolas can be overprotective,” she said stiffly. “It has been a while, Alexander. You’re just the man I came to see.”
His interest was piqued at those words. “Oh?”
“I’d rather discuss it in private,” she said as she glanced at the attentive patrons of the tavern.
“Of course,” Alexander said with a smile that reminded her of a snake. “Follow me.”